Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teacher Leadership Capacity-Building: Developing Democratically Accountable Leaders in Schools

Mullen, Carol A. and Jones, Rahim J. (2008) 'Teacher leadership capacity-building: developing democratically accountable leaders in schools', Teacher Development, 12:4, 329-340

This case study used qualitative data to explore practices of school leaders and the implications of their choices to social justice and teacher empowerment.  This study assumes the goal is to create democratic schools were all teachers grow as leaders and where the school leaders facilitate opportunities for teacher leadership and establish a culture of trust, honesty and professionalism.  The case study included three high performing elementary schools in Florida.  This study also assumes a new understanding of school leadership as one where school leaders and teachers work together to shape policy, create curriculum, enhance instruction and improve education for all children.  Researchers looked specifically at how school leaders intentionally build capacity in their schools, the processes and structures they use to facilitate leadership and the roles and selection they employ among the teaching staff.  Their research shows the importance of teacher involvement with the decision making and policy making of the school.  Emerging from the study of all three schools was a list of multiple avenues for teachers to become more involved in the leadership of the school and in creating a system of social justice. 

What may be most helpful in this article for potential or current school leaders to consider are the multiple reflections and comments from teachers and school leaders about how a principal can encourage teacher leadership.  There are examples of how school leaders can express the value of teacher appreciation, examples of how teachers can feel empowered and examples of how to develop professional learning communities.  Ultimately, three findings in their conclusion can inform how successful a leader will be in developing a democratic community.  These are:  the style of the principal, school based leadership opportunities and professional learning communities.  All of these elements are important to think about when leading a school. 
  • Exemplary principals go beyond involving teachers in decision-making processes; they co-create the conditions for a supportive environment that encourages teachers to examine their teaching and school practices, and experiment with ideas that result from reflective practice.  (p. 330)
  • The vision of a new profession of well-educated teachers prepared to provide leadership toward restructuring American schools manifests in such teacher leadership roles as curriculum developer, research coordinator, mentor, lead teacher, and school improvement team member... the most prevalent recommendation for improving America's schools was that teachers should take on more of the leadership of their schools.  
  • If schools are going to improve, principals must focus their efforts not only on student achievement, learning, and accountability, but also on facilitating the development of teachers as social justice workers committed to citizenship, ethics, and diversity.  
  • The teachers in this study have shared that they want to work with principals who are willing to listen, support their decision making within reason, and trust what they say and do.  Teachers are willing to take on more leadership responsibilities where they respect and admire their principals and feel supported by them.  

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